YOUR SIDE: The Readers Take Over

In support of proposed charter commission formation

To the editor:

There is a very important issue on the ballot that can impact the future of Salem. Proponents of the issue believe that seating a charter commission to examine the structure of government, as 263 other communities across Ohio have already done, could set the city on a course for a more accountable, efficient and effective government. In addition to the question of whether a commission should be formed, 16 non-partisan, regular Salem citizens have stepped up and volunteered to do the work of the commission. Of the 16, 15 would be chosen to form the commission should the issue pass. The candidates are our trusted neighbors – doctor, accountant, social worker, mechanic, business owner, retiree, etc. They have been recognized by many as a quality cross-section of our town.

So, let’s look at who is for and who is against this issue. This issue is supported unanimously by the previous and current Salem City Councils that represent(ed) all the citizens of Salem. They meet in open session where they discuss and deliberate in open meetings on what’s best for the city. They take public input. They take an oath to work for the betterment of Salem and uphold the constitution. In the last candidate forum for the mayor’s race, even the mayor supported the idea of considering a charter in Salem. The issue is supported by the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce with a membership of more than 350 businesses and individuals in Salem whose best interest is a thriving community known to be a place where people want to live, work and visit.

By contrast, the two political central committees in town – the Democrat and Republican Central Committees – have come out against the issue. Their membership numbers just eight people each. Although they are elected only by those declaring to be a D or an R in their small precincts when voting, they are often internally appointed. They meet in closed sessions in non-public settings and discuss among themselves, without asking who they represent, what issues or what candidates they support. Even though they may not agree, if a majority (five in this case) decide something, that is what is publicly professed. We have no insight to their deliberations or motives, only what they say when they decide to be public. They use the power of their pen and the name of their parties to influence and inflame if it can get their candidate elected, or an issue passed or defeated.

Please don’t mistake our regard – the political parties play a key and beneficial role in our system. But their motives, by nature, are to maintain influence and drive agendas. It has been admitted that they fear losing that influence should a charter commission be formed. However, contrary to their sound bites, seating a charter commission will not reduce your representation, will not cost $50,000, will not endanger the police chief’s job, will not concentrate power into council or one person, will not eliminate checks and balances, etc., etc.

They say it will reduce your power to the direct election of city officials. Yet the past five years saw 50 percent of the races having only one candidate.

If the central committees want to maintain a hand in local government — which they should — they should be a part of the discussion rather than try to persuade the citizenry to vote against their better interests.

Last year this issue failed on the ballot by less than six tenths of 1 percent when one of the Central Committees came out against it one week before the election. Out of the 4,633 votes cast, that’s just four away from an automatic re-count by law.

The choice is our current form of government known as statutory, or seating a commission to just look into a charter form. Consider this, a quick Google search yields the following: ranked by amenities, public schools, crime, cost of living and job opportunities, of the Best Places to Live in Ohio, nine of the top 10 are in charter communities; of the Best Places to Start a business in Ohio, seven of the top 10 are charter communities (of the three that are not charter communities, two of them border the number one on the list which is a charter city); of the Top 20 High Schools in Ohio, 19 are in charter communities and only #20 is not; of the Top 10 Poorest Cities in Ohio, seven are statutory cities like Salem – and worse yet, Salem is on that list at number nine with East Liverpool. There are only 263 charter communities in Ohio out of 938 cities and villages, yet charter communities dominate the “Best Of” lists – isn’t that worth looking into? That’s all this is about.

Please vote “Yes” to allow the discussion to start.

JOCK BUTA,

DAVE NESTIC,

Co-Chairs Salem Charter Commission Campaign

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